We arrived at Turpan from Urumqi. Turpan is the second lowest point on earth next to the Dead Sea.
We drove through the Tuyugou Valley and the Flaming Mountains. The little Tuyugou Valley is relatively unknown and is less visited by regular tourists. In Uighur language, it is called Tuyoq or “not passable”. It is close to Turpan and is only about 70 kilometres away by road. It is 15 kilometres directly east of Gaochang. Few tour groups go there though some of the sights, the history, and the people are interesting. However, it is a Muslim religious pilgrimage site. It is a more primitive Uighur agricultural valley, with vineyards and fields in the northern and southern valleys and a narrow ravine that connects them. The ravine has a stream and some good natural scenery and hiking. The canyon and area around it were once inhibited by Gushi Caucasian people who left large graveyards with thousands of graves of the same scale as the more recent Astana Tombs that has mainly Chinese graves. The southern mouth of the valley has big Uighur mosques older than the Emin Minaret and a cave thought by many to be described in the Koran. About a kilometre from the cave shrine is a group of grottoes called “Thousand Buddha Grottoes” that have some Buddhist and Nestorian artwork. The southern end has lots of vineyards and orchards, and people can have a meal in Uighur houses and restaurants. The little valley is only about 12 kilometres long, but it has some of the intriguing sites around Turpan.
For many local Muslims, the famous site in that southern valley is a cave in Mazar Village or “Mazacun” in Chinese. It is called the Al-Sahab Kahfi Mazar. They believe that a miracle that was described in the Koran happened in a cave there. A record in the Koran seems to match the legend of the Al-Sahab Kahfi Mazar perfectly. The story goes that after their death, the seven young men were buried at where today’s Al-Sahab Kahfi Mazar stands. In Chinese the Al-Sahab Kahfi Mazar is called “Qi Xian Fen”, or “Tomb of the Seven Saints”.
The world “mazar” is an Arabic word that means “place to pray.” For many Uighurs, it is a holy shrine. Some local Muslims say a dog defended the mosque during the Cultural Revolution so that it wasn’t damaged. It is an old pilgrimage site. Muslims from all over Xinjiang, Northwest China’s Gansu province and Ningxia Hui autonomous region, and even other countries like Uzbekistan, Pakistan and Turkey come here to visit the Al-Sahab Kahfi Mazar or “tomb of saints in the cave”.
“Some even believe that visiting the Al-Sahab Kahfi Mazar twice equals one Haj,” says 34-year-old Jappar Hamut from Shanshan.
The Mazar Village, is literally a village next to a cemetery. Uyghur people buried their dead next to the village. This village is about 1000 years old. The brick houses were made of mud and straw. Due to the dry weather and low rainfall, these houses can withstand for a few hundred years.